Paul Barter and Chris Cornelison with the TASCAM marine buoy (left; image A Ballance) and Paul with the smaller next-generation inshore coastal buoys (image: Cawthron Institute)
New Zealand has a very long coastline, and there’s an awful lot of ocean out there that we’re responsible for, but about which we know very little. Traditionally, scientists have got in boats and motored around collecting basic information such as water temperature and salinity, which is very time-consuming, can’t be done in bad weather and just gives a single piece of data at one point in time.
But, working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) which has more than 20 years experience in developing and deploying oceanographic monitoring buoys off the coast of Central California, the Cawthron Institute has developed a hi-tech coastal buoy that can sit out in the sea, and send back basic information such as currents and wind speed, regardless of how awful the weather. The work began in the early 2000s, and the latest model of remote buoy can now be deployed for a year at a time. It is powered by a solar panel and batteries, and collects information on water temperature, salinity, chlorophyll levels and currents, as well as wind speed and surface weather. This information is beamed hourly to the Cawthron Institute and made freely available on their website.
Alison Ballance heads to the Cawthron Institute to meet Paul Barter (left) and Chris Cornelisen (right) who tell her the TASCAM buoy in Tasman Bay is proving a boon to yachties and mussel farmers as well as scientists. They also check in on the HAWQi buoy which has been installed in Hawke’s Bay. Their hope is to get a network of these buoys in place around the country, and have the data available as open access.